Wednesday, July 14, 2004

File Under "Better Late than Never"

Let it not be said that I have forfeited my critical thinking skills to the Democratic party and cannot under any circumstances praise the Bush Administration. Much as it pains me.

But, finally. The Bush administration sacrifices immediate political expediency by criticizing a strategic ally on human rights abuses. Perhaps the first time in this administration that the democracy rhetoric has been backed up by action in an inconvenient locale:
In a rare rebuke of an ally, the Bush administration announced yesterday that it will cut $18 million in military and economic aid to the authoritarian government of Uzbekistan because it has failed to take a series of promised steps to improve its human rights record.

Bravo for them. As with all things, we may see a backlash. Some fear that this will push Uzbekistan to seek aid from the willing teat of Russia and China via the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Very possible. If the cost of keeping Uzbekistan dependent on our aid rather than somebody else's is rewarding human rights abuses with elaborate funding packages, let them find it elsewhere. We're continuing to engage them on other fronts (Nunn-Lugar arms reductions, support for democracy groups, etc.), so it's wisely not a complete disengagement we're talking about. You can't overestimate how much the U.S. has been undercutting its message of democracy promotion by only promoting democracy where it's strategically convenient, and embracing despots where it is not. Uzbekistan is not an easy case in this regard, but this is the first time I've seen anything more than symbolic chiding. I'm glad to see an inkling from this administration that they're willing to put a little money where their mouth is. We need to stay in close coordination with them now and provide some real incentives for progress so they won't completely fly the coop.

Back to your regularly scheduled fluff.


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